I’ve been thinking I would wait to write a post about Mom until I could do it without feeling sad. Then I realized that if I waited until then, that would be entirely too long to wait. And there’s the outside chance that writing about Mom might, in fact, offer a measure of peace. Thank you, in advance, for allowing me to share this painful story.
My Mom died on Christmas Day. That thought and those words come time and time again, bringing with them a deep, empty ache. Here’s the rest of the story… About 30 years ago Mom was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. It was treated with radiation and chemotherapy, and she was healed. End of story; so I thought. I had no idea that the treatment she received, most especially the radiation, had damaged her heart. We began to understand that a couple of years ago when she had surgery on a carotid artery. The type of blockage that she had was specifically caused by radiation. It was during the pre-op procedures that the surgeon discovered damage to a heart valve. The determination was made to monitor the heart, but to expect valve replacement surgery at some point in the future.
In the following year, it was discovered that Mom had kidney cancer. She traveled to the DFW area (home is Oklahoma) for surgery to remove the diseased kidney. She bounced back from that surgery with very little pain and no noticeable ill effects. That is, until the heart valve replacement surgery which occurred on July 9, 2013. The single kidney could not keep up with the strain of the added fluid build-up caused by both the surgery and the more extensive than anticipated damage to her heart. She struggled to recover. She would seem to turn a corner in the recovery process, only to face additional complications. Even her own brand of eternal optimism was challenged by the ugly realities of the disabling condition.
Yet we all still believed that she would recover – eventually. I kept believing that the following holiday season we would all be rejoicing over her return to health and remembering how far she had come. But that was not to be. She collapsed at home on Christmas Day, was rushed to the hospital where they were able to recover a heartbeat and place her on life support long enough for the family to gather. We came together with sustaining love and unity of spirit – to support my Dad, each other, and our Mom and Granna.
On the following Saturday, which was the day we had planned to be together to celebrate Christmas, we celebrated and honored Mom’s life. All four of the grandkids spoke at the service, each sharing their unique perspective and bond with their beloved Granna. I also was privileged to speak and was held up by the spirit of Comfort shown through the gathering of so many who loved and were loved by my Mom.
Our heartbreak continues; but so does life. We continue to honor and mourn her in our own unique ways, sometimes simply struggling to make it through the day. Yet other days lifting our eyes to discover the unending joy and Hope that continue to surround and sustain us.
I am forever grateful for the privilege of having been first a daughter, and then a treasured friend to my beloved Mom. I miss her physical presence deeply. How I long to share my joys and struggles with her once again. To hear her say she loves me and is proud of me and my family. Yet I hold her spirit in my heart and soul. And see her unconditional love anew in the eyes and smile of our precious Ellie Jaclyn. Life goes on. And so we go on until we see her again.
We’ll see you in a little while, Mom.